Serena Franco of Ava Luxe is a truly independent niche perfumer who does everything herself, and seems to be powered by a highly energetic interior engine driven to create a wide array of different sensations across the whole spectrum of mood and type. She is one of a number of independent perfumers who are prolific; I am thinking of Dawn Spencer Hurwitz and Liz Zorn, too. One of the joys of perfume these days is trying their new things, or delving into their library of past compositions. They are all so personal and imaginative, all while aiming for beauty as a primary force.
Serena Franco, like a number of other such perfumers, is essentially self-taught, yet grounded in a fine artist’s traditional education and training. I have noticed that this background naturally has a direct influence on the perfumes, which shows itself by the wide cultural and art historical references used for inspiration.
Inspirations come from the formal opulence of the golden shimmer of the Byzantine and the French 18th Century decorative arts, to the silver highlighted Noir of Jazz Age Hollywood film, to the ornamental sinuous plant forms of Art Nouveau. Thes perfumes draw on the Romantic English poets, or classical ancient Greek myths, or Asian ceremonial aesthetics, or modern music.
Classical perfumery has otherwise been a direct reference to nature itself, or an aid to a sacred ritual such as meditation or prayer, or inspired by certain types of glamorous society women, or references to the lifestyle rituals of the rich, or the air of beautiful locations that impart the feel of luxury to whoever can afford to wear them. As we know, the materials are expensive and the packaging and promotion even more so. We also know that the formulations and materials of the classic luxury European perfumes have changed over time and we may not be able to experience them as they once were. As in ballet, such perfumes as a form are passed down through a mentoring system but they may change through individual interpretation and the modifications of tastes and time and available resources.
This line uses simpler materials, and a perfumer who possesses a fine artist’s creative resources, who gets the most out of them. Ava Luxe is making well priced hand made perfumes, hand packaged with personal service, marketing directly online, with a single creative individual’s direction, cutting out many layers of expense. This results in a level of quality that would otherwise be priced astronomically if it were produced in a more commercial way. So a refined sensibility becomes directly accessible to a wide range of people through the means of an affordable olfactory luxury.
For example, Red Tara and Figue de Sucre. These two perfumes are at opposite ends, a red and a green, a hot and a cool fragrance. Lately I like to try two very disparate types from a perfumer at the same time. Contrasts show the spectrum and range of personality and style. These two both have an anchoring center that reaches out like a feather to your nose to touch all the edges of your olfactory sensitivities. They remind me of the contrast between an electric bass guitar and a violin, both strong in different ways.
Red Tara is a warming, smoldering smoke-y wood that has been infused with resins. The notes listed are sandalwood, iris and myrrh. The name and the interpretation are an impression of the soft force of compassion reaching into the heart through the mind as something that can actually physically happen. The Red Tara is a feminine aspect of Buddhist principals of liberation. There is a meditative quality to the perfume referring to the practice of burning sandalwood to aid the mind in maintaining focus. The burning aromatic wood clinging to the surface of the body is lively and magnetic, as is the Red Tara. She is depicted as the spirit of a feminine warrior who will slay negative energies to defend the pursuit of beauty and compassion. This perfume is tenacious and catching the scent of it can remind you of the strength of beauty as an aid to maintaining personal balance.
Figue de Sucre notes are listed as ripe fig, fig leaf, plum, moss and vetiver. The rich tar of a fig is mixed with moss and vetiver that have brightened into a fresh greenness. This becomes Spring in the form of a liquor that you can breathe in. The initial blast of fresh greeness is so dominant that you almost forget the fig beneath, which over time emerges as the base underpinning. There is a sense of sweet clean skin beneath, an accord something akin to the sweat of a child who has been running around in the sun for hours.
Other favorites of mine from this line are Midnight Violet, Moss and Madame X. I have written about Ava Luxe before, you can access the posts in the search bar in the right hand column. There are some great ones for layering, which I have written about also.
The site is well organized and easy to navigate, divided by fragrance types such as florals, woods/resins, fresh, gourmand/sweet, chypre, green/herbal, etc. and the drop down menu choices range from $20 for 5 ml to $50 for 15 ml, in oil based perfume, eau de perfume and extraits. Some of the perfumes are listed as temporarily out of stock, or go in and out of production as the attention wanders here and there around the site from her many fans, but if you contact Serena she can make a fresh batch for you. The perfumes are all made to order anyway, and are vegan friendly and completely cruelty free, of course.
These two perfumes are not new ones, but examples of the Ava Luxe style I admire. I look forward to trying the newly listed Amande, Green Tara and Pink Violet.
Many many thanks to Chayaruchama, a.k.a. Ida Meister, my perfume fairy godmother, who has generously showered me with many Ava Luxe fragrances over the past couple of years. I have a box full of such samples she has chosen for me, and I am still working my way through them all. Contact with Chayaruchama becomes an education in modern perfume in itself.
Above illustration of Red Tara from Dharma Sculpture, which illustrates and explains Tantric Buddhism.
Photo of the fig is from the Ava Luxe site.